The Joint Legislative Committee On Aging voted unanimously Thursday to protect a program that supplies food and home care for more than 5,000 home-bound elderly South Carolinians.
Horry County Senator Yancey McGill says the Committee wants the Community-Based Care program budget to remain at $2.9 million, even though the House budget proposal has cut it almost in half, to $1.6 million.
Senator McGill says last year Lt. Governor André Bauer, who is over the Office on Aging, fought against similar reductions and won, and he believes the same can make a difference this year, when lawmakers are energized to stand behind the elderly. McGill says committee members will plead with budget leaders in the House and Senate to restore the funding. McGill says the program is a really good investment because it allows seniors to live independently and not have to leave their home for institutionalized care. Bauer’s office said that nursing home beds are $40,000 a year.
(McGill on elderly funding MP3 1:57)
McGill on elderly funding
Bauer’s office says the nutrition program was the only budget request made by Bauer this year.
Bauer stated in a release: “So many people are now so isolated and alone after having vibrant, successful careers that benefited society. I am thinking of the late Juanita Goggins, the first black female legislator who died recently, cold and alone. Thanks to her there’s sickle-cell anemia testing in health departments, expanded kindergarten programs, and lower student-teacher ratios. There are thousands of people just like her who, with a little bit of help, can get by on their own, people who never asked for much.”
Sharon Seago leads the South Carolina Association of Area Agencies On Aging(or SC4A). It provides services similar to the Council On Aging and coordinates with that organization. Those organizations receive the funding that helps mainly homebound citizens. In addressing the committee Thursday, she said that cuts have already forced her group to eliminate home and community-based servies. But she said that the current year would have been much worst if lawmakers had not restored funding to 2.9 million.
SC4A is a non-profit organization operated by 10 directors in all regions of the state. Seago says the work of home care organizations is essential. She says that almost 14 percent of South Carolina’s residents are now over 65 and that percentage is growing by the day. Seago says funding senior care would not only save the state money, but is essential to protect elderly residents who are dependent on it.